Monday, July 24, 2017

In Which God And Satan Make A Wager, And Then Everyone Dies Horribly

Okay. 

This is a really, really depressing story, and I think I need to point that out before I start making fun of it.  However, ever since I started retelling Bible stories in less boring ways, this is the one I always knew I’d get to eventually.  The big enchilada.  The white whale, except, finding a single albino whale that you’re obsessed with in the entire ocean is probably harder than tracking down this part of the Bible.  The point is, I’ve been getting ready to tell this story FOR YEARS.  And now I’m here.  I want to do this.  It’s a terrible idea, but I’m in.

Today, let’s talk about Job.
No, not “job”.  This isn’t an economics discussion, it’s… oy.  Just…. Just go with it.  I don’t come up with these names, man, I just tell the tales.

Our story opens up with God hanging out with Satan.  That is not a joke, that’s really how this fucking story goes.  (SPOILERS: I am going to say many things here that sound like jokes, but they are not.  You have been WARNED.)  And you know, as a hook, “God and Satan are palling around…” is a pretty good one.
Pictured:  God and Satan palling around, according to noted crazy person William Blake.

So, God and Satan are palling around, in heaven or whatever.  And God’s giving Satan a tour, because in this story God and Satan are best bros.  As they’re hanging out, God goes, “Hey, Satan, my home boy; you see this dude Job?  He is the best!  He shuns evil, he has the best stuff, he has a beautiful house and shit.  He sacrifices stuff to me all the time, just because he wants to make sure his kids are good and stuff.  He is such a great dude.”

And Satan- who, you know, is Satan- goes “Dude, he only worships you so hard because you’ve given him all this shit.  I mean, you’ve convinced the stupid humans that literally everything that’s good in life comes from you.  So yeah, he has a mansion and an ice shaver and some sort of means to store ice, even though it’s the freaking bronze age and that technology won’t exist for thousands of years.  Of course he worships you like crazy, he’s a mad suck up!” 

Deeply offended and refusing to believe him, God goes, “No way, that can’t be it!” And Satan goes, “Dude, I bet you if you started fucking with his shit, he’d stop praying to you so much.”  And God goes “YOU’RE ON!”, literally making a bet with the actual Devil, in this story that is in the actual Bible, because God is literally THE WORST. 

(I’m pretty sure I’ve covered that on numerous occasions.)

Thus, Job’s vast plantation is immediately attacked by a raiding party that steal a bunch of his livestock and kill most of his slaves (it was totally kosher back then to own a bunch of slaves).  Then, because when God makes a wager he doesn’t fuck around, a fucking meteor falls from the sky and goes all Tunguska on the rest of his property.  And then a tornado kills all of his children because holy shit, we’re not even done with chapter 1 here, and HOLY SHIT this story is the bleakest thing imaginable.  But Job shaves his head as some sort of weird “It’s cool with me, God” measure, and keeps on worshiping God, like God thinks he should.

For the record, Job is an idiot.  Moving on!

Back in Heaven (or wherever), Satan is thinking “OMG, did you just see how easy it was to goad God into fucking up his best friend?  Amazing!”  But Satan isn’t about to say that out loud.  God goes “Yo, Satan, my boy, guess I won that bet, huh?  I fucked over Job real good, and yet, he’s still rolling with Team Jehovah, huh?”  And Satan- who is giggling so hard when no one is looking- goes, “Okay, sure, you fucked up his property and killed all his children, slaves, and cows.  And that sucks.  But children are awful, slaves don’t count as people, and meteor roasted cows just sounds like instant hamburgers to me.  It’s not like you REALLY fucked him up, right?”  And God goes “You think you can do better?  Go nuts, my main man!”

Now, I want to point out, that yes, Satan is a total dick in this story.  He’s evil, sure.  But he’s not a moron.  And God definitely is the Elmer Fudd to his Bugs Bunny right now.  Satan doesn’t actually care about this Job guy, he just thinks it’s really funny that God is screwing over his number one fan.  THIS IS WHY YOU NEVER GAMBLE WITH THE DEVIL, CHILDREN.

Satan keeps giggling, and goes “Boils all over your body, biznitch!  Hahahahah!!! I can’t believe God is letting me do this, this is hilarious!  Hahahah!!!
This is what boils look like, I guess?  Billy Blake, you so crazy.

By now, Job has lost all his children, all his money, and all his land is on fire and/or has been tornadoed to death, PLUS he is super gross looking now.  And yet, he’s still out there, Praising God, which is like how evangelicals Praise Jesus, but before Jesus times.  His situation has gotten so bad that his only surviving relative, his wife (who does not have a name, because of course she doesn’t, this is the Old Testament) goes “Holy shit, Job.  You’ve lost everything God ever gave you.  Plus, you are super gross now!  And, like, our mansion?  On fire, crushed by a tornado, and with all our dead children in it.  And you’re literally thanking the guy responsible for that?  Fuck you, I hope you fucking die, you monster!”

I think Job’s wife might secretly be the hero in this story.

But Job goes “Don’t you talk shit, it’s old times, and women don’t get the right to an opinion!” Normally, this is where I’d point out that he’s being an asshole. To be fair, though, I’m pretty sure if all this happened to me in one day, I probably wouldn’t be feeling much more charitable than he is.  (But she’s still totally right, for the record.  And he is being an asshole.) 

MEANWHILE, Job has these three friends, named Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, and you can tell they’re all men because they have proper (if silly) names.  And word has gotten around about all this bad shit that’s happened to Job, so they decide to check in with him.  Except, when they get there, between the baldness and the excessive amount of boils, they literally cannot recognize him.  He is just that ugly now.  Everyone feels bad, because everything is awful, so after Job tells them that it’s really him, the four friends all sit in a circle together for a week and say absolutely nothing.

This accomplishes very little.  I’m not sure why that surprises them.

Finally, after all that, Job finally opens his mouth, and starts going all Hamlet on everybody and goes on and on about how he wishes he was dead.  Eliphaz spends and even longer amount of time making a speech, telling him that it’s up to God to judge man.  Frankly, the majority of this book is dudes sitting in a circle telling their extremely unlucky friend that somehow this is all his fault for angering God, and Job saying, no, I didn’t, I don’t know why all this terrible shit has happened.

I remind you, it happened because God made a deal with Satan to fuck with him for literally no good reason.

I’m not going to bore you with the details of these annoyingly long speeches, because the whole reason I do this is so that you can skip that nonsense.  Some other dude shows up literally out of the blue, there’s lots of quotable noise that doesn’t matter if you’re an atheist, and much grumbling over the nature of wisdom and where it comes from.

(“Wisdom” comes from learned experience and empathy for the plight of others.  That’s not their definition, but it is common knowledge you can use in real life!  Unlike this damn story.)

Because after like 35 chapters’ worth of dudes chatting about the true nature of reality (3,000 years before we discovered the Higgs boson, I remind you), another goddamn tornado shows up.  Only this one is stationary, and is apparently the literal manifestation of God himself.  I don’t think God was a tornado at the beginning of this story, but, honestly, I don’t think they say so either way.  Tornado-Style God is all “Yo, I heard you guys talking some shit!  You think you can understand why I do the shit I do?  You guys are just stupid mortals.  You think you know?  You’ve got no idea how many wheels I’ve got spinning, bitches.  I DO WHAT I WANT!”  This exchange actually is much longer in the book, but you catch the general drift.

Now, Job is feeling a little meek about all the boils and dead relatives when facing God himself, understandably.  He basically goes “Yeah, I can’t actually question the will of God, even though he’s done all these terrible things to me, his number one fan, for literally no discernible reason” (I’m pretty sure Job is out of the loop on the whole God and Satan gambling situation).  And God says “That’s what I thought, bitch!  And also some stuff about sea monsters that doesn’t matter at all, but creationists will use this confusing allegory to argue dinosaurs existed in Bible times, centuries down the road!”

I wish I could tell you that I just made that up.  I did not.

So after basically 2 chapters of God talking about the Loch Ness Monster for…  reasons, God yells at Job’s friends for not being nearly as into random suffering the way Job is, and threatens them into sacrificing some livestock for him, just for kicks. Then he bails.

Job ends up getting all better, and having a whole bunch more children to replace all the ones who died.  Apparently that fixes everything, because it’s not like children are human beings or something, and they can be easily replaced with new ones, with no emotional or psychological damage to their parent's psyche getting involved.  I’m not sure if they’re mom is his original wife, but it’s the old testament, so… yeah, it's hard to say. 

Then, Job lives to be so old that death is most assuredly a sweet relief.  Meanwhile, off somewhere, Satan is still laughing at what a tool God was to fall for this scheme.  The end.



Thus concludes this extremely nihilistic story about how the all-knowing, all-loving creator of the universe can fuck you up something fierce for literally no reason whatsoever, because fuck you, you don’t know.  Nothing you do matters, you have no say over the nature of your existence, and you better just shut up and deal with it.  Again, I wish I could say that I was making a joke here, but seriously, that is the point of this story.  So, uh, good luck with that.

I’m gonna go home and watch The Hours.  It’s way less depressing that this crap.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

In Which Giving 5 Year Olds Infinite Power Backfires Somewhat

Wow, it’s been awhile, everyone. How’s life treating you?  It’s been kind of a super crazy year for me, but now I simultaneously have a chance to catch my breath AND find myself kind of bored.  Plus, a friend asked me to write about some sort of crazy story, so I’m going to do that.  STORY TIME, CHILDREN!

Today I’ll be telling you all about the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which people often confuse for the Gospel of Thomas, which they shouldn’t.  First of all, the Gospel of Thomas is probably the best Gospel that got cut by the Biblical Selection Committee, and this… well, isn’t nearly as good, from a “morals and ethical notions” kind of perspective.  Also, I’m pretty sure there’s no murder in the actual Gospel of Thomas, and this one, oh boy.  So much death.

Okay!  This is the story of the Baby Jesus,  only he’s not a baby, now he’s 5.  Now, you Bible Nerds may remember that in the boring old regular Gospels, two of them start around about the time Jesus was being born, one of them skips to him at 12, and then they all jump to him turning 30.  And at 30, Jesus is a mostly chill, sandal wearing, tax paying proto-hippie (just don’t buy shit at church in front of him or whatever, though).  He’s all “don’t be dicks to other people” and “people are generally terrible, but some of them can change” and “fuck water, I’m making wine, bitches!!!”

Jesus is basically a great guy, is what I’m saying.  But as a child, apparently, he was TERRIBLE.  This makes a lot of sense, all children are TERRIBLE.  The difference between Jesus and most other terrible 5 year olds, though, is that as the divine son of a creation deity, 5 year old Jesus already has access to phenomenal cosmic powers.  As anyone who has ever met a 5 year old could tell you, this will be awful for basically everyone. 

Our story opens with Li’l Jesus barking orders at a stream of water for some reason, and then making clay birds, because he’s bored and video games wouldn’t be invented for another two thousand years.  But some jerk sees this and is all “OMG he’s playing with clay on a SATURDAY!”  and freaks right the hell out.  You might remember way back in Moses Times when God was all “Never do anything fun or productive for any reason at all on Saturdays, because I told you so, neener-neener-neener”?  Those rules were still in effect, apparently even for kindergartners.  So, this guy goes and yells as Jesus’ step-dad, who ALSO freaks the hell out. 

Joseph yells at Jesus, and Jesus is all “I’m magic, yo!” and turns the clay birds into real ones that fly away; thus proving that he can manifest a spark of life in wet mud, and also destroying any evidence that he was trying to have fun.  Then some uppity six year old throws a stick at the water Jesus was yelling at earlier, and Jesus is all “Mine mine mine!” (as a five year old will do) and he goes full on end of Raiders of the Lost Ark on this kid.  Like, seriously, I’m not sure if his face melts off or if he super-fast ages to death.  My translation quotes “the lad withered up wholly”, so no matter what happened, it was awful.  Then, Jesus goes home and takes a nap.  The dead kid's parents start yelling out at Joseph that his son is a monster, and they are clearly correct.  Li’l Jesus must be stopped.  But he won’t be, and the dead kid and his parents are never mentioned again.
(Guys.  I LOVE this story.)
Just to prove I'm not making this up, here's a 700 year old picture of this story.  Kid Jesus is in blue.

Later on, Jesus is out playing in the street when another kid bumps into him, and he’s all “Smote that bitch!” and yet another child is murdered by our Lord and Savior.  Because he bumped into Jesus’s shoulder.

More angry parents start yelling at Joseph, who, to be fair, has been put into an impossible situation of raising a child sociopath with infinite power bestowed upon him by his actual, also cosmically powered god-father, whom you may recall cuckolded Joseph before the wedding night and basically just ruined his life.  Maybe the reason Jesus grows up to be so pious and understanding is his stepdad was possibly the most compassionate person ever?  He certainly didn’t take after his biological father, a notorious divine asshole.

As a crowd of angry, yet justified, villagers gathers outside his house to make this monster stop, Joseph tries to explain to Jesus that killing people for petty reasons in generally frowned upon.  Jesus nods his head, says “You’re right, not-my-dad, killing that angry mob would be too easy; they should suffer for a while.”  He snaps his fingers and suddenly the entire crowd is struck blind.  The rest of the city now in a panic, and with no other recourse, Joseph sends Jesus to boarding school, so that he can be someone else’s problem for a while.

Jesus soon has a teacher named Zack, and Zack thinks that he is a child wise beyond his years.  Now, at first I thought that just proved what an idiot Zack was, but then I remembered how many murderous sociopaths are actually hyper-intelligent and super charming.  Maybe Zack was just enthralled by this conniving little psycho?  But OF COURSE this is going to go badly for Zack.  See, in short order Jesus gets bored with him (as he does with all things), and basically starts pointing out what an idiot he is, and how little he understands God and the nature of the universe, and why don’t you just go and kill yourself already, Zack?!?!

After talking Zack off the ledge and putting him in therapy, the school makes Joseph take his awful kid back, which Jesus finds hilarious, because he is horrible.  But good news!  Watching all these people freak out about him makes him laugh even more, so he reverses the previous blindness and stuff, which I guess is good.  Of course, no one ever wants to mess with this child ever again, as he has clearly gone completely mad with power.  Oh, and also, while he fixed the blind people he himself had blinded earlier?  Yeah, the dead kids are still dead.  Hooray.

A few weeks later, Jesus and a friend of his named Zeno are playing on the roof.  Now, I’m not a parent, but I’m pretty sure “don’t let 5 year olds play on roofs” is a pretty easy concept to get behind, because that’s a good way to get their tiny bodies to fall off and die.  As you probably already figured out, that’s exactly what happens to Zeno.  Naturally, Zeno’s parents believe that Jesus has killed again (but really, what were they thinking, letting him play with a demigod child who is a known murderer?).  Jesus turns to his friend’s lifeless corpse and goes “Hey, Zeno, did I push you, or did you fall off the roof like an idiot, which you are?”  And the corpse responds “Yeah, that one was on me, Mom and Dad.”  His parents, too terrified to know what else to do, worship Li’l Jesus in fear, hoping that their son’s corpse won’t be his meat-puppet-play-thing for long.

The rest of the book is sort of a greatest hits prequel to the miracles in the Canonical Gospels, with the added weirdness that a small child sociopath is doing them instead of a kindly teacher type.  Some idiot kid chops his foot off, Li’l Jesus touches it and the bleeding stops, more people join his cult.  Jesus goes to get water, the pitcher breaks when he’s fucking around with it, and he carries the water home in his shirt (That sure sounds like a weaksauce miracle to me, but I didn’t write this damn thing).  Jesus, aged 8, manages to feed an entire village with just a little wheat (I wonder if that trick will come in handy later in life?).  Jesus feels the magic and rubs some wood for his dad to make furniture with.  That is not a joke. (Mostly.)

As the book continues, there are a few more healing acts and resurrections, plus some more of Jesus schooling his own teachers whenever he runs into them, and pint-sized Jesus’ cult of followers keeps growing.  That’s where the book abruptly ends, because apparently Jesus aged 12 to 29 were considered the boring years.  Frankly, that’s a shame.  Super horny, sociopathic Jesus who could kill or raise from the dead anyone he wanted (and as his hormones went crazy) and who already had a cult of followers doing his bidding would make for some good reading.  Somehow Jesus became much more chill as he aged, and apparently we’re doomed to never find out how.  Eventually Jesus let go of his violent tendencies, and all was well.  As long as you didn’t sell stuff at church, that is. 

Oh.
And as long as you didn’t throw sticks at the water he was just yelling at, I guess.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

He Always Was, And Ever Will Be, Our Friend

On Friday, February the 27th of 2015, Leonard Nimoy died.  He was 83 years old.  He was Mister Spock.

I never met Nimoy, and now I never will.  But like so many others, Spock changed my life.  Actually, I'm not even sure of that, because I can't imagine I time that Spock wasn't part of my life.  We watched Star Trek 3 during my 8th birthday.  I remember before I was 10 years old, my mother yelling at me to stop raising my eyebrow at everything (a classic Spock move!) because it was giving my forehead wrinkles.  Spock taught me the benefits and pratfalls of logic long before my voice changed, and I've been wondering why other people always ignore it ever since.

But he's not really gone, as long as we remember him.  And we should grieve in a way that makes us happy.  So, in celebration of the life of Leonard Nimoy, I selected some Spock-heavy episodes (and one movie) of Star Trek- a few of them that I hadn't seen since I was a kid, even- and thought I'd share a few words about it.

The eye of the tiger.
Amok Time

Captain's Log: Spock's acting weird!  Turns out that all those repressed emotions Vulcans keep in really mess them up when their mating cycle is doing it's thing, and much like the salmon of the Pacific-Northwest, Spock must return home to breed.  Except that his bride-to-be has chosen another suitor: Captain Kirk!  And he and Spock must fight to the death to win her hand!

Best Spock Line:  “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.”
I know it's kind of cheating, because this was quoted directly on the "Everything I Need To Know I Learned From Star Trek" poster, but yeah.  SOLID ADVICE.

Why This Episode: It's really not fair to open the re-watch with Spock at his craziest, I know, but you can't have a list of Spock episodes without this and the next entry.  Plus, basically all of Vulcan culture first appears here, and most of it Leonard Nimoy made up, including the Vulcan salute all true Trekkies can do.  In their sleep.  By the age of four.
We see how far the bonds of friendship go between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.  And we get to see Spock throw a bowl of soup at a wall and crush a computer monitor in anger, both of which are delightful.  Plus we get hints as to how important Spock's family is in the politics on Vulcan, which is a nice transition into our next episode.

Journey to Babel

Captain's Log: The Enterprise is assigned to transport a collection of diplomats to an intergalactic conference, which is as good as excuse as any to introduce Spock's parents, Ambassador Sarek and Amanda MrsSpock'smom.  Spock has Daddy Issues!, mostly because a,) Vulcans are repressed-genius-assholes, b.) as an aristocratic family,  said asshole-behavior is obviously magnified, and c.) as a child, other children bullied Spock for being half human, because Vulcan children, like all children, are The Worst.
But that's just the start!  Political intrigue is afoot, complicated by spies and murrrrrrder!  Sarek looks like the obvious suspect, but what terrible secret is he hiding?  And throw in a knife fight and blowing up ships for good measure!

Best Spock Line: "Humans smile with so little provocation."
Oh, Spock.  Thank you.  YOU get me.

Why This Episode: This is an episode so busy that Captain Kirk getting stabbed in the lung is just a minor plot point complicating the family drama.  Stabbed in the lung! Crazy!  A LOT of things happen in this episode, most involving Spock in some way.  Spock and his dad haven't spoken in years, but that gets wrapped up pretty quickly.  Even with all the craziness around this episode, it's really about bringing Spock and his parents back together, so it's pretty much required watching.

"Just look at this mess!"
The Galileo Seven

Captain's Log: While in route to a humanitarian mission, the Enterprise pauses to send a shuttle craft commanded by Spock to investigate an anomaly.  (Why they didn't just mark it down and come back to it after their initial mission, I have no idea.)  Things go wrong, because this is Star Trek, and Spock and the shuttle's crew must try to survive on a lost planet filled with hostile monkey-cavemen.

Best Spock Lines (It's a three way tie)“I, for one, do not believe in angels.”
Spock is a strict rationalist, because obviously!  Use your head!

"I'm frequently appalled by the low regard you Earthmen have for life."
Because humans are just the worst, seriously.

"I am not interested in the opinion of the majority, Mister Gaetano!"
Seriously!  This is not a democracy!  Spock is the Boss!

Why This Episode: In this episode, our hero, Spock, is forced to command a bunch of idiotic, irrational humans in a desperate survival situation.  It does not go well... because these morons keep resisting Spock's every order.  Seriously, these people are supposed to be the best and the brightest in the fleet, yet they panic at the mere notion of death.  Spock points out that to reach orbit they need to loose the weight equivalent of three men, and they start to angrily assume Spock wants to kill half of them.  They freak out because Spock doesn't want to help them preform a funeral, when they are literally in a life or death situation right freaking NOW.  These officers are insubordinate and AWFUL.
McCoy barks at Spock a lot, but at least Scotty is dedicated to fixing things.  But these redshirts?  They're basically useless.  And their first idea is to kill as many of the monkey-cavemen as possible!  Not very Starfleet-like, I'm glad Spock chews them out for it.
I mean, I know that the episode ends with Spock making a wild guess, and learning a lesson about the limits of logic (that he immediately denies), but I chalk that up to the racist, anti-logic opinion of the 1960's writers. :-p

The Tholian Web

Captain's Log: While trying to investigate a missing starship, Kirk gets caught in a different dimension of space/time.  Spock takes command, then some aliens show up to ruin everything.  I don't want to say anything else, because this episode is rad as hell, and I don't want to spoil too much.

Best Spock Line: "I shall not attempt to voice the quality of respect and admiration which Captain Kirk commanded. Each of you must evaluate the loss in the privacy of your own thoughts."
Kirk's eulogy for Spock in Wrath of Khan is far more famous, but for a Vulcan, this seems to display the height of respect, both for the survivors and for the "dead".

Why This Episode: If the last episode was about Spock learning to lead (and not about how humans are dumb), this episode has Spock being that good leader.  God damn, I love watching Spock be in command, he's just so efficient and intelligent in the role.  I get how some can read him as rude, but that's a misunderstanding of the character.  Perfect example, when Uhura tells him she can't reach the Tholian's on the comm, and then tries to explain why not, he cuts her off to deal with more pressing issues.  That's not meant as an act of disrespect, on the contrary, Spock knows she's good at her job.  He doesn't need more information because he trusts her.
Unrelated, but the Tholians are rad, and I wish they'd show up more than twice in Star Trek (And one of those was on Enterprise, that hardly counts).  And how snazzy were the space suits in this episode?  They were All Of The Snazzy.  I want one.  I would wear it to parties.
Seriously, one rad episode.

Spock make outs!
All Our Yesterdays

Captain's Log: Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are investigating a planet orbiting a dying star.  Until recently, the planet was inhabited, but the away team discovers that the population saved itself by sending it's inhabitants into various time periods of the planet's past.  Unfortunately, they make this discovery by becoming stranded in that past themselves: Kirk in a past that resembles a bad three musketeers story, and Spock and McCoy are stuck 5,000 years ago, in the planet's last prehistoric ice age.
Also!  Spock is reverting to the personality of the Vulcans who lived 5,000 years ago, which means he's now Angry Spock.  The plus side: he manages to make sexy time with a Raquel Welsh stand-in.

Best Spock Line: "You are beautiful.  More beautiful than any dream of beauty I've ever known."
Spock is a smooth talker, alright.

Why This Episode: It's Spock's own "The City On the Edge of Forever"!  I mean, no, it's not as good as that episode, but that's still a pretty great episode to be compared to.  And while the time travel stuff is under explained, the Guardian of Forever "just is" in "City on the Edge...", so I'm not gonna complain much.
I like whenever Spock finds love, however briefly, and "primitive Spock" works for me better than "drunk Spock", like in the space hippies episode. And Spock and Zarabeth seem to have a really tactile chemistry between them.  I don't know, it just works for me.
Okay, the "Kirk gets thrown in jail for witchcraft" subplot is a bit rubbish, and McCoy recovers from deadly frostbite awfully fast, but for a late season 3 episode, this one is pretty good.
Wait a minute.... Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, needing to work together, despite failed lines of communication; prisons; our heroes stranded in a frozen wasteland of a planet; near the end of a show/movie run... this all reminds me of---

The look of a man who knows he's the smartest person in the room.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Captain's Log: The Wall Comes Down ... In Space.
It's kind of silly to talk about this film without discussing the politics of the day that it's clearly referencing.  So yeah, this is a film about the end of the Soviet Bloc.  It's also a kickass Star Trek film.  Let's dig in.
A massive energy catastrophe in the Klingon Empire has gravely injured it.  In the wake of this, the Federation and the Klingon Empire have agreed to work together to normalize their relations, in order to save the most lives possible: an end to the long cold war between the two powers.
It will be easier said than achieved, as parties on both sides, Federation and Klingon, want to work against this new peace.  Oh, and who has been sent to be the initial envoys for this mission?  Why, the crew of the Enterprise, of course, on their last mission before thy're decommissioned...

Best Spock Line (Another tie):"History is... replete... with turning points."
A fine point about history, spoken with wisdom.  All times may be end times, but the end times never actually come.

"What you want is irrelevant, what you've chosen is at hand!"
It's not on the "Everything I Know.." poster, but holy cats, important life lesson here.  It's harsh, but true:  How we choose to act in any situation defines us more than what we want, how we feel, or what we wish.

"If I were human... I believe my response would be 'Go to hell.' ... If  I were human."
Sooooo perfect.  Just saying.

Why This Movie:  I thought a lot about which movie to put on this list.. In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Spock is fine, but it's nothing too interesting.  Star Trek 2 and 3 were right out, due to the content of the situation.  (I don't really want to watch Spock die at the moment, even if he gets better.)  Star Trek 5 has a couple of "crowning moments of awesome" for Spock ("Damn you, sir!  You WILL try!"), but on the other hand, that movie is unquestionably terrible.That left Star Trek's 4 and 6, and while 4 came close ("Colorful metaphors", indeed...), it came down to logic.  My sister thought this was the best choice. :)
And that's great, because this is straight up my favorite Star Trek film ever.  Yes!  Even more than Wrath of Khan or First Contact.  And it's topical, because this movie is about a lot of things, but ultimately, it's all in the title:  The Undiscovered Country, the future.
And the future scares a lot of people.
This is a film about a lot of things.  It's about the folly of racism/nationalism.  Even our heroes are guilty of it.  "They don't have the same respect on life as we have " Scotty tells Spock, and, as always, Spock remains the rational one ("Hardly conclusive, Mister Scott, as Klingons have no tear ducts.").  And prejudices are often the hardest thing to overcome when forging a new way.  "Don't let it end this way, Captain" Chancellor Gorkon says as he dies, knowing that changing the way things are is a bloody, but necessary process to building a better future.  Kirk's racism against Klingons- an ancient hatred compounded with the death of his son at the hands of a Klingon- makes matters even worse for him at his trial.  It's only when he overcomes this racial hatred that he sees the truth, that he understands Spock's plan, that he can SAVE THE DAY.  Literally, the only way the heroes can win is to put aside their prejudice to build a better tomorrow.  This is Star Trek at it's finest.
After Kirk and McCoy's arrest, Spock is in automatic command response, which, as usual, he rocks at.  REASON ENOUGH TO WATCH THIS MOVIE.
Plus, the core?  Oh man, it is weird and awesome.  People don't appreciate the music in movies like they should.

We now live in a world without Mister Spock, without Leonard Nimoy.  This is our future now, and Star Trek, at it's core, has always been about building a better, brighter future.  But like I said, Nimoy isn't really gone, as long as we remember him (Star Trek taught me that).  He and his words, his personal journey- both as Spock and as himself- will go on in our memories.  And I, for one, will never forget.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Time to Ruin Your Day by Talking About Abortion

So, this one time, I had the honor of being asked by a friend to go with her to her abortion.

Now, I know that "honor" is a weird thing to see in that sentence, but let me explain a little: My friend- we'll call her Polly- was dating a man who lived in a different state.  Despite the fact that she was on the pill and he always wore a condom, well... somehow that little ball of cells still got fertilized.  I know, it sounds impossible to a lot of people, because they were totally using protection.  But actually, when you look at the stats, condoms are actually really easy to screw up (and even when you use them right, they aren't infallible). On top of that, it's also stupid easy for the pill to have problems and pregnancy prevention is actually a lot more complicated than most people realize.  On top of that, I'm pretty sure Polly might actually be some kind of genetically perfect super-human, grown in a lab by late-era cold war scientists.  (She denies this, of course, but it would explain her crazy fertility powers.)

The point is, that whole "It works almost all of the time" thing means that it still screws up whenever "almost all" isn't that time, and that's how Polly and her boyfriend ended up pregnant.  And that was a problem, for a bunch of reasons, but I'll just stick to the practical ones: They both worked full-time jobs in exhausting, high stress fields; they lived a thousand miles away; and Polly was finishing her degree.  On top of that, they'd only been dating a few months: this accidental pregnancy couldn't have been more of a terrible idea.  Which is why- duh!- they'd tried everything they could to prevent it.

But as I've said a thousand times before, Nature is a Total Bitch. And that little microscopic protein chain was one tough bastard, and there she was.  Stuck with a newish long-distance relationship and a pregnancy that couldn't have been timed worse.

Straight talk, because I know lots of people will disagree with me (but fuck 'em), I absolutely think Polly did the right thing.  And even if I didn't, it wouldn't matter, because holy shit, it's her body, not mine.  And no one- NO FUCKING ONE- has the right to tell anyone else what to do with their body. Your life, you gotta make your own moral choices about it.  Polly decided that the right thing to do was to terminate the pregnancy.  It was not a decision she made lightly, but it was made with the best of intentions for herself, her future, and her family.

Now, as a dude, I don't know anything about what it's like to be pregnant, to have a baby, or to have an abortion.  Waaaay out of my scope of practice.  So, rather than explain the mechanics of it, I asked Polly to explain what her abortion entailed for herself:

"Driving there was scary but the staff and clinic was so lovely.  There was a couple there that was really depressing.  They were college students who were in love and were trying to hide their sexual activity from their parents.

"They weighed me.  Pricked my finger to figure out blood type and took vitals.  I went and read a book and then had a sonogram with a very nice lady with very cold gel on my belly.  Then I spent an hour answering questions in the counselling section.

"Yes, I understand sex and birth control.  No, I don't feel unsafe at home.  I have a support system and am not going to kill myself.  And am making my own choice.  I did think about keeping the baby and it wasn't feasible (this is the correct response, or they spend another hour discussing other options).

"Then I peed and popped a horse sized pill and drove home.  Woke up at 4 am to shove 4 tiny pills up my twat.  And had the most fiery and painful one-day cramp session of my life.  Gorey, not fiery.  Blood everywhere, like I was murdered or lost a limb.  Then I slept for two days, and had a light bleeding for a month.

"And then you came with me to the two week check-up.  Which was very similar to the first experience, except for the trans-vaginal sonogram which I wasn't expecting, and was violently scary since I wasn't expecting it.  No counselling session that time, though, just a review of my circumstances and bleeding."
-Polly Elders-Luker*
*Not her real name, unbelievably enough, but if you catch the references, good on you!

See?  Before she told me that, I didn't even know that I was only there for the follow-up, not the initial appointment.  That's how little I know about abortions!  Hilarious! And weird.  And sad, and holy shit, is it just me, or does it seem like the public is totally misinformed about this stuff?  I thought trans-vaginal sonograms only happened in horrible nightmare places like Alabama, not SOLID BLUE states like Illinois.  But it does, and it did.  And holy shit, you guys.  That's horrifying.

Why would I feel "honored" to be there for her during this horrible, gut-wrenching experience?  Well, despite the fact that 1 in 3 women in this country get an abortion at least once in her life, there's a ridiculous social stigma against it, considering the country is basically split evenly on the "pro-choice"/"pro-life" divide.  As I said, her boyfriend lived several states away.  She felt she needed someone to be there, just as a sign of encouragement, who wouldn't judge her as "immoral" or whatever, and someone who would keep it private.  And she asked ME to do that.  So yeah.  THAT was a huge honor, to be trusted like that.  If you can't understand that, maybe you need to read up on the concept of "human empathy"?  Just an idea.

The now totally GOP-controlled Congress and various State Houses (which are often even crazier) have spent the last few years doing their level-best to undo Roe vs. Wade.  I could list dozens of cases in which these men- and I do mean men, because most women approve of abortion rights for reasons that should be obvious- have been trying to cripple the law of the land.  These assholes have no respect for women, and no respect for human rights, end of discussion.  I'm sorry, there's just no room to maneuver on this one.

If you're personally not comfortable with abortion, THAT'S OKAY.  Don't get one.  But when you actively try to stop a women form getting their own, from controlling their own body?  Fuck you, you fascist.  No, really, you are a fascist, that is literally the definition.  You think you know how someone else should live their life better than they do, so you're actively trying to force your control over them.  That's awful, and who are you to tell them how to live?  Kindly fuck off.

Birth control, abortion, these things have always been around.  There were Ancient Egyptian remedies for having children, the Roman Empire had there version, hell, they invented the condom in the goddamn Middle Ages. Abortion isn't pretty.  It's not a nice thing to think about, but it's something that we, as a society, need to grow the fuck up about.  Sex is gross but feels great, everybody poops, and most sane people don't want to reproduce before they feel they're ready to have a child.  That's not immoral, that's a totally well reasoned, ethic desire.  Stop saying "the child was destined to happen", because destiny can blow me. Repressed moralists can bitch all they want, but you would think that only a sociopath would want to go back to the days of Back Alleys and Coat Hanger abortions.

I once actually had a debate about that with someone on the other side of this issue.  I asked this friend about the morality of inevitable abortions; how even if abortions were "morally abhorrent", wouldn't clean, sterile abortions be better than a mother-to-be risking her life with a back-alley one?  If the whole "Pro-Life" opinion (what an absurd term) was all about saving lives, isn't saving one life better than risking two?  And what he said (again, it's almost always a "he", isn't it?) chilled me to the bone:  "If she's going to abort a baby, she deserves to die."

...
WOW.

That is probably the most fucked up thing anyone has ever said to me in a sincere, honest-about-their-opinion conversation, and it is HORRIFYING.  If you think the possible "life" of a microscopic ball of protein is more valuable than an actual human being, then we have nothing more to discuss.  There is nothing Pro-LIFE about wishing a woman to die.  If you believe that, then fuck you and your homicidal patriarchy.

Again, I'm not trying to tell anyone what they should or should not do!  Everyone, man, woman, or any of the complicated genders in between those old models: No one should make your life choices except for you.  But the kind of assholes who try to control other people- specifically people who aren't rich white dudes- those people are douchebags.  And we should treat them as such.

Because there shouldn't be this social stigma.  I guarantee you know someone who has has an abortion, whether you realize it or not. No one should have to be embarrassed that they decided they weren't ready to have a baby.  That isn't immorality, that's just well reasoned finances! Oh, and "moralist" crowd?  We could spend days talking about the terrible immorality about having kids before you're financially ready. (Also, FUCK YOU, and here's a link.  You should kindly go read it, if you're still confused.)

Polly and her boyfriend didn't work out.  And 3 years later she casually mentioned that one time I went with her to the abortion clinic, and honestly?  I totally had forgotten about it, but yeah, that was a thing that happened.  And I sort of half-jokingly mentioned I could write about it, and then she thought that would be a really good idea, and here we are.  Polly has finished school and continues to work in her rather demanding field.  She and her boyfriend are no longer together, and considering the drama involved in that particular break up, I, for one, am glad there was never a baby involved.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Reflections on the Last 24 Hours...

I'm trying really, really hard to confront my feelings honestly.

And see, just by framing it there, I'm already setting myself up for disaster.  "Confront" already implies a battle.  A war with myself on an issue.  So maybe that's the wrong way to frame it, because I'm not at war with myself at all.  I know exactly where I stand.  It's just everyone else I have a problem with.

I haven't blogged anything since April (my life has been stupid busy lately, on top of the not-at-all-secret project that I'm working on), and actually, I have another post that I was going to put up today, that's been in the works for awhile.  But then last night happened, and honestly?  I don't think I'm ready to post it today*, because there's been enough  terrible bullshit after the grand jury announced it's decision in Ferguson.  And I think I need to talk about that.

Ferguson.  My generation's Watts (or something).  And it's all so goddamn predictable, and that's one of the saddest parts for me.  Not the saddest part, because holy shit, (white) cops murdering black teenagers for no reason (except they're black) is clearly way more important and horrible than however I feel (Jesus, how is that even up for debate?).  I can't pretend to actually know how Watts compares- I wasn't alive in 1965, and, oh, yeah, I'm a white dude, how the fuck should I know how to understand the black experience?  I can't, so I won't try, but I'm still sad and angry, and doing my best not to break down in my office right now.

Because I'm bombarded with facebook pages and friend's comments that I find so ignorant right now, and all I want to do is scream at people- some of whom I care very much for.  And they're just so wrong, and so casually racist, and I'm having trouble dealing with it, and OH MY GOD HOW I FEEL DOESN'T MATTER ONE BIT, BECAUSE JESUS FUCKING CHRIST ANOTHER WHITE GUY IS GETTING AWAY WITH MURDERING A BLACK KID!!!!
And I just... I can't deal.  And maybe I shouldn't, because we're all fucked by the system, or whatever.  It's so predictable, and so sad.  And I don't know what to do except to write about it.  Because that's what I do.  And maybe I can persuade some of my "friends" to reexamine things.  Maybe not, who's to say?

I was 7 years old the first time I saw police brutality in action against an innocent teenager.  Okay, actually, innocent isn't the right word, he'd just stolen some potato chips from a grocery story (god forbid).  Perhaps in the cop's mind that warranted the shots that were fired, even if he had confused that teenager for a different perp.  In the policeman's mind, maybe "Shoot first" makes sense, at least in this country (For some reason, most of Europe seems horrified by the US's public servants' penchant for sending bullets firing).  This was, for me, a very informative experience.  So, no, I won't pretend I'm neutral.  I've never trusted the police, I doubt I ever will, and I say that as a white middle class male.  I can't imagine how much worse it must be for people who aren't the most privileged class of people in this country.  Also, fuck you, no I won't stop saying this, but my opinions don't matter, because COPS KEEP KILLING BLACK PEOPLE JUST FOR BEING BLACK!

And I could reduce that, say "Cops keep killing people just for being ..." but that's not actually honest.  You can look up the stats, that's what Google is for.  Michael Brown.  Eric Gardner.  Kimani Gray.  Kendrec McDade.  Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams.  Tamir Rice.  Guys, this isn't hard to find out.  Akai Gurley.  No, for real, all you have to do is google "black people killed by police". John Crawford.  Actually, just type "black people k-" and Google literally fills in the rest for you.  Ezell Ford.  That's how fucking obvious this shit is.  Kajieme Powell.  This list could literally just go on and on.

Yes, I'm biased against the police.  I'm the first person to admit that.  But holy shit, is it really that hard to see that there's a problem here?

"Because, yeah, no one really listens."
That's how Film Critic Hulk put it in his brilliant essay on Do The Right Thing after Brown's murder this summer (and oh my god, have you seen Do The Right Thing?  It's fucking brilliant, absolutely necessary viewing!).  Because it's hardly like Mike Brown, Darren Wilson, and Ferguson, Missouri is an isolated incident.  This isn't about any one person or event.  This is about all of us, our society.  We killed Michael Brown for being a black teenager in America, and then we let Wilson off the hook for it.  That's why Ferguson is rioting again.  That's the real reason for all of this, and if you don't understand that, then yeah, I guess I can see why you're so upset about all those (mostly black) people acting up around the country.  You don't understand that we are ALL responsible for this.

All those names I listed before, and everyone I didn't list?  Well, the cops who killed them were literally the paid representatives of us, "We, the people".  If we don't hold them responsible, then we're saying what they did is okay.  Cops are far more likely to get away with horrible crimes than civilians, that's just the math.

And so no, no one is surprised that Darren Wilson is getting away with murder unpunished.  No one was surprised when George Zimmerman got off for killing Trayvon Martin either, and he wasn't even an actual cop, so of course Wilson gets off.  We can be sad, or offended, or (if somehow you still don't get the god damn point) happy about it.  But NO ONE is surprised.  This is America.  This is what happens.

And I can't do anything but reflect on how awful it is, and know that my feelings don't matter.  I can't fix this, because this is us.  Michael Brown is still dead, like all the others; his family mourns; his community mourns; and so many people are angry at other people for being angry and I don't know what to say.

Nothing changes the fact that another teenager died for nothing.

"Is it wrong for people to riot?" Sure, but that's not- "Is it so wrong to call for peace?" No, but again- "Why can't they just hold a vigil or whatever?" OH SHUT THE FUCK UP. Maybe instead of asking why they're protesting, you should consider what they're protesting about.  Maybe you should ask yourself why it's okay for a cop to gun down a teenager.  Maybe YOU need to check your racism at the door.  My god, I am so sick and tired of listening to white people who don't understand their own white panic.  I'm sick of it, and I don't know how else to say it.  Also, AGAIN, my opinion, just like theirs, is the least important part of this, because COPS KEEP KILLING BLACK PEOPLE FOR BEING BLACK.

Nobody thinks that the protests in Ferguson and around the country are happy nice times.  Not the protesters, not Brown's family, not Governor Jay Nixon or his National Guard, nobody.  But they're a response to a systemic problem that we continue to ignore.  The awful inevitability of Ferguson. It's appalling.  And it just keeps happening, because WE let it.  That's on all of us.

Again, I'm quoting that review, but it's the honest, strongest truth.  "It's impossible to do the right thing when no one seems to care when the wrong things are done to you.  It's impossible to do the right thing when no one listens."


*= Give it a day or two, I still intend on publishing it very soon.  Even though it may offend people, well... tough titties?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Brent and Katie Got Married: Muppet Treasure Island


This one is late for a bunch of reasons, but its cool.  It's here now, and that's what is important.

Happy birthday in 15 minutes to Katie!  Oh, and also to me.  We share the same birthday, Walpurgis Night, the best holiday there is.  Its just yet another way that we're better than everyone else. :)

Next time!  Someone KISSES someone ELSE!  Oh, and tacos may be involved.  Guess you'll have to read it to see.

Previously:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Monday, April 21, 2014

Brent and Katie Got Married IV: The Quest For Peace


Family and Easter stuff delayed this, but we're back!

Not a whole lot to add here, other than to say I think making Kevin K stare at the ground in panel 2 was hilarious, and that's drool, not blood, coming out of Tommy's mouth in panel 9.

Oh, and there was A LOT more wine chugging than I drew here.

Next time: Let's get on with the wedding already!

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Brent and Katie Got Married Part 3: The Search For Spock



Part three:  Oh, look!  Patrick and K-Wolfe showed up!  And so does my crippling anxiety over totally trivial matters!  Awesome!

I know no one else cares about sacred architecture, but as someone who obsesses over weird old stuff, I assure you, the trauma was very real.

Next time!  The bachelor party!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Brent and Katie Got Married: Part The Second


Part two: a couple brief vignettes before more of our friends arrived to join us.  I'm pretty sure I really was wearing my Batman t-shirt when Katie picked me up at the train station.

I don't think Brent was just making up the story about Columbia's weird zoning and street construction ordinance rules, but if he was, a 5 second Google search didn't prove it.  So there's that.

Next time: Patrick and K-Wolfe shows up, and I prove that city planners aren't the only crazy people in this comic strip!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Brent and Katie Got Married: Part 1


PB & J (&K) is back!

Okay, it's only for a special for the next week or so, but to celebrate my friend's wedding anniversary, I'm making a comic special about the Incident in Columbia (as I am forebodingly calling it as of right now).

This is basically real dialogue, I really did swear never to read 1st Corinthians.  Its a family joke, and no, Katie didn't get it, either.  But if my sister or my father read this comic it will make them laugh.

More tomorrow!  (Probably.)